Technology savvy

The Bayt Al-Tawable Food Company has implemented an Infogenesis restaurant management and point of sale (POS) system alongside Microsoft's Great Plains ERP in order to bring greater transparency to its operations.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  October 9, 2005

|~||~||~|The hospitality industry has undergone major change over the last decade. Some changes have been dictated by technological advances, such as the shift from mainframe access via dumb terminals and green screens, to the current emphasis on above-property applications leveraging data from a single source. Other changes, such as the increased use of the internet, have spawned a plethora of new opportunities along with new intermediaries. The more powerful technology and improved business practices have had an enormous impact on the industry. Real-time access to inventory, transparency across multiple channels, seamless exchange of operational information and key performance data have all contributed to the high level of competitiveness now observable in the sector today. For the Bayt Al-Tawable Food Company, which has been responsible for bringing several international franchises into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and is the exclusive agent for the internationally renowned restaurant chain L'Entrecôte Café de Paris in the region, there was a need to update the technology architecture in order to better cope in the increasingly competitive environment. The Geneva-based French food chain took the decision to deploy Microsoft's enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution and industry-specific technology from Infogenesis, specialists in hospitality and food services software. "Together these allow L'Entrecôte Café de Paris to view and analyse all aspects of each branch's performance in real-time," says Prince Waleed bin Nasser Bin Fahed Al-Faisal Al-Saud, president of the food company. Recognising the importance of good organisation and efficiency to its franchise's success, Bayt Al-Tawable accepted the need to streamline its operations by introducing end-to-end automation of it business processes in all areas of the enterprise at its Riyadh branch. After considerable market assessment, the Great Plains application, restaurant management software and POS solution were selected for their ability to interface seamlessly with other mission-critical programmes. "We serve clients by delivering services and solutions focused on specific needs with particular emphasis on developing and integrating information systems, helping clients transform their business," explains Abdulaziz A Albakr, president of Digital Computer Systems (Digicom), the enterprise technology consultancy Bayt Al-Tawable selected to supply and implement its new applications. The new solution has brought automation to all of L'Entrecôte Café's business processes, extending specific information and procedures to employees, vendors and partners throughout all aspects of its operations. By deploying the system across financials and accounting, through human resources, payroll and supply chain management to business analytics, sales and marketing management and customer service, the food company has become more agile and efficient. "We [have been] able to roll out our ERP back office systems to allow L'Entrecôte Café de Paris to prepare and analyse budgets and forecasts with up-to-the-second information and eliminate duplicate data entry," enthuses Prince Waleed Bin Nasser Bin Fahed Al-Faisal Al-Saud. Furthermore, the Infogenesis POS technology that Digicom delivered to Bayt Al-Tawable is now making it possible for the food company's non-technical staff to tailor system features to the expanding needs of L'Entrecôte's growing business without the complication and expense of time-consuming custom programming. As the POS was built from the ground-up for the Windows NT platform and not as an add-on, it is possible for all the POS system management to be carried out in the Windows environment, making it simple to use for all the organisation's employees. The users are able to quickly set up multiple revenue centres and track each of these individually by member of staff, terminal, hour or menu item, and real-time transaction posting means that information is always available. Daily reports and resets can be pre-configured and automatically generated at a specified time without interrupting POS operations and all the reports the system generates can easily be exported to Microsoft Word or Excel. Furthermore, the intelligent POS terminals offer touch screens for improved efficiency, as well as guarantying 100% uptime and complete data security for Bayt Al-Tawable. If for any reason a terminal is disconnected from the system server, users can continue to process sales with no system downtime and all data can be captured off-line at the POS terminal and transmitted to the server upon reconnection. Through this solution, the food company is able to streamline operations and maximise its per customer revenue. "Infogenesis addresses our need to improve guest experience management," says Bayt Al-Tawable's president. "[The technology offers] real-time analysis of business metrics with advanced reporting, lower overhead through reduced training time and fewer input errors." The final element of the project, the dining reservations system, is a customisable enterprise-wide reservation and relationship management tool, co-ordinating Bayt Al-Tawable's customer service efforts and providing important customer data. Because the organisation's operational calendar is part of the reservations solution, L'Entrecôte can schedule special events or create exception-based planning. The system also has three components that work together to increase customer satisfaction, staff efficiency and profitability for the food company and its franchise. "[The solutions] are unique in the fact they are driven by the food and beverage market needs," explains Prince Waleed Bin Nasser Bin Fahed Al-Faisal Bin-Saud. The first of the three constituents that make the reservation solution suitable for Bayt Al-Tawable's needs is a booking module that enables L'Entrecôte Café de Paris staff to book reservations from a centralised call centre at each outlet. Capable of storing vast amounts of electronic data, the reservations system makes it possible for the customers to book months ahead, and for employees to track important customer preference information, also making it easier to confirm, change or cancel reservations. Once reservations are made, an arrivals module provides an efficient interface for greeting and seating customers, making it possible for staff to identify and assist important guests quickly and easily. The final configuration module offers customisable options for table types, inventory, and table blocks easing the process for creating block booking and set customer turn-around times. "Integrating the POS and dining management applications with the back office Microsoft ERP provides the possibility for mobile ordering with wireless devices to extend the service envelope, improving efficiency and [thus] the business' profitability," adds the organisation's president. As Digicom Systems has gained significant experience in providing IT solutions to the food and beverage sector, the company was able to use its industry-specific knowledge to customise the solutions to fit Bayt Al-Tawable's individual requirements to successfully reduce the company's operating costs and boost the flow of information throughout the organisation. The integrator was also able to provide training for the Bayt Al-Tawable staff on the three new applications to ensure the technology was able to go live as quickly as possible and with the minimum amount of disruption to business. "We chose Digicom for its combination of integrated services and its expertise and proven experience," explains the Bayt Al-Tawable president. "[It offers] solid technology systems, dedicated service and support and solid interfacing capabilities. The training Digicom provided allowed users to be comfortable with the ERP and other software from the very start." With the new software now in place and delivering the business benefits that Bayt Al-Tawable hoped for at the project's inception, plans are now in the pipeline to further leverage the advantages of the more efficient automated system. The company is working with Digicom Systems to further streamline the company's operations in a scheme that will bring the Microsoft ERP and Infogenesis solutions to the rest of its outfits on a local and international scale, according to Prince Waleed Bin Nasser Bin Fahed Al-Faisal Al-Saud. "Moving forward, Bayt Al-Tawable and L'Entrecôte Café de Paris have plans to continue rolling out of Great Plains and the dining reservation and POS systems to other branches, both within the Kingdom in Jeddah and Khobar as well as at international locations in Kuwait, Bahrain and Cairo."||**||

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